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Category: Poems

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Worlds such as this were not thought possible to exist.

—NASA, June 2, 2014

Nyx.

Was it I who invaded the day, or the day who invaded me?

I do, I undo, I redo.

I enlarged the figure till it was a mountain—I don’t fear the sublime—

and I cut off its head,

having already cut out its tongue. I have three siblings and flocks of children,

and though we’re oft confused,

you must know that I differ from all: I am not my brother Darkness,

nor my sister Dirt, nor my brother Torment.

I am a time and I am an astronomy, a geometry I invented myself, an architecture,

a divine, and like any divine,

yes, I have made kin from unions with my kin. Out of a union with my brother

I made the nymphs,

the river and the boatsman, lullabies. If X is an obstruction,

and if the poetry of X was music,

then this poem is a musical obstruction, and if this poem is a musical obstruction,

then this poem is a lullaby,

my kin born of my kin. I am a space as much as I am a voice. Did you truly hail me

for a dim-witted conversation about love?

Me? There is nothing like me. I am no more like my siblings or my parents

than I am like a placid lake,

or the Gaping from which I was born. I am a charioteer, a bird.

Would you believe me if I said I also made

the Ether and the Day? Whether or not your faith is stored in my ear,

I am sure in what I have made.

How could I be both gentle enough and dangerous enough for your thoughts?

Doyou have thoughts? I asked about moon,

dark, pain; you only gave me yourself. And as to my other question: it was me.

I invaded the day. It didn’t stand a chance.

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Coda: Late March beneath the earth

fanged root begins to snake—

in three sharp thrusts

I rout out a stub

toss it on a dry heap of yellow sticks

somewhat weakened

Once ravenous

in the bed

my arms crept up hung from the iron

frame Pull me out

I cried

to no one my husband gone where he was

my family melting away

and I

attached as a root to blight

or to what is

invasive O honeysuckle

O pretty and sweet

The hollow stems crowding out

light O soundless plague of the forest

Imagine somebody whispers

stopping that cycle imagine you

being the one

I lay abed my spikes softening unwitnessed

mouth adrift missing

a petal

Heave out each inch of bindweed

and what is left A hole

too vast to be a hole

god-gutted space within the earth

nothing to push against impossible

to envision There what could be living

I go into the kitchen for water I await my friend

who has for years worked

his family garden

He who is kind

regards the root and starts

to dig—

from Pretty TripwireFind more by Alessandra Lynch at the library

Copyright © 2021 Alessandra Lynch
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Girl Gets Sick of Rose

When I asked for a pencil, they gave me a rattle.

When I asked for a hammer, they gave me a kiss.

All mongrel, no matter, I’ll stay out past dinner;

I’ve stolen the answers to all of their tests.

I’ve given up sweets, their ridiculous shapes,

Their instructions on which ones have cherries.

Everything under the sun is lukewarm;

The poppies are blooming with worry.

When they gave me a map, I thought they were done,

I thought I could take off my dress.

They told me one town was as good as another;

Sent me packing, all fiddle, no case.

Each cul-de-sac greyed like a cooled blown bulb.

All dashboard, all driver, all sky & no cake,

Each neighborhood gatehouse, a live empty socket.

When they asked for my ticket, I gave them a wink.

The instructions all listed Step One as Repeat,

The poppies were planted in rows at the park.

I lived on a circle, then moved onto a square,

Then wandered back into the kitchen half-drunk.

The screen door, the scrim, the latch, the last word.

The glass throats of each vase open wide.

A house is the largest headstone we make;

We keep walking, grateful, inside.

from Neck of the WoodsFind more by Amy Woolard at the library

Copyright © 2020 Amy Woolard
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

How to Sew a Spacesuit, 1968

Dear ____________,

I’ve taken to pinning patterns on your bedroom floor

where we dragged the sweating moon.

Practical astronomy—our seam allowances

smaller than a sewing needle’s eye. Above us, the ceiling strewn with flowers

cut from the leftover wallpaper of another room.

If you can’t dampen your grief,

what will keep your fingers from being lured

under the needle in sleep, from the bared teeth

of the feed dog gathering up fabric in the wake

of our hands? Remember—one stitch fired

per footfall means fewer discarded suits.

If you can’t forgive your scissors—chalk this constellation overhead: the long arm

of the machine where we turn & turn again the whole body of your future

daughter’s spacesuit.

About heirlooms, you know what they say— + We will have to split one

needle / this winter—one end for me, / one end for air. +

How we make do and mend is not always fair.

from Little Envelope of Earth ConditionsFind more by Cori A. Winrock at the library

Copyright © 2020 Cori A. Winrock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

California Penal Code 484

The Irvine cops picked up Sherod

while he was riding Jimmy’s bike

to school. He’d snuck up into the scrub hills

above our complex to work on the fort

we were building with wood from a deserted

rancher’s shack. By the time he came down

to the bus stop, we were the diesel exhaust

that ferried us to our daydreaming hours.

Jimmy’s bike stood in the communal racks.

We all knew the combination to its lock

and took the Huffy as needed. Sherod’s need—

to be at Rancho Middle before his father

found out he’d never made it—his need

was one too many. Jimmy’s father,

out the door to work, saw his son’s bike

gone again, reported it stolen to the cops.

A morning patrol found the bike

underneath a black boy not in school

and hauling ass down Culver Drive.

I did not understand what adult machinations

led to my parents driving that afternoon, with me,

to the Irvine police station. My father

had emigrated from England in the 70s

and was hipped to the American scene as soon

as he started dating my mother. He got out

of our Chevette, looked back at his black wife,

his too-brown son, and said, Stay put, you two.

If he pulled that white savior bullshit now,

we’d have words. But I didn’t have that term

white savior then. Even if I’d known it,

I don’t think I would have used it that day.

Would have cared to use it. My friend was in jail

and headed to juvie, that scare story—whaled on

by high school monsters twice our size—tormenting

our nights and keeping our days straight and narrow.

I didn’t care what my father said inside the station,

with what English boys’ school curtness he said it,

with what iron-backed code of whiteness. Didn’t care

and was happy when he strode out with Sherod

trailing behind him. Sherod, who did not speak

on the ride back to our apartments, who watched rows

of eucalyptus blur by on University Avenue, who

the next morning we avoided at the bus stop,

who did not try to join us, who stood with his back

toward the bike racks, toward Jimmy’s bike, fastened

there again, with new lock, with double loop of new chain.

from Ghost, like a PlaceFind more by Iain Haley Pollock at the library

Copyright © 2018 Iain Haley Pollock
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

To My Many Mothers, Issei and Nisei

Praise be to beef liver stew, to gravy biscuits

and home-baked bread, to women

in work pants and suspenders who worked like dogs

in the packing shed, up to elbows

in rose clippings. You fed us well, O goddesses

of goulash and green beans, of Sunday dinners

wrangled from the coop. For penny money

and seamstressing, praise. For parsnips

and sweet potatoes, praise. Even for the years lost

to sharecropping and strawberries, hallelujah.

You worked until the final hour then rose

three days later, baby squalling on your hip,

back to breaking canes, clipping hooks,

hustling the men through lunch hour.

No breaks, boys. Hallelujah to Pond’s Cold Cream,

to curling rags and church bento socials.

Praise to the nursery truck revving in the morning,

the clank of steel pipes and boiler-

house rumble. All glory to the Berkeley streetcar

and Key Route electric train, the smokestacks

of Richmond and foggy peaks of San Francisco.

And because they’re what taught us to praise,

glory to the roses run wild, the packing shed

left to cobweb. Praise to the crowded horse stalls

and half-built barracks of Rohwer, Arkansas,

dusty sheets and muffled nights of Block 9-9-C,

100. Sakai, Chu. 102. Sakai, Ruby. 103. Sakai, Kazue.

O praise to the camp midwives, the Nisei girls

shooting hoops and swatting birdies when their mothers

weren’t looking. And to the college-bound coed

who crossed the country, camp release papers

in hand, hallelujah. Her truth marches on.

from Isako IsakoFind more by Mia Ayumi Malhotra at the library

Copyright © 2018 Mia Ayumi Malhotra
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

“And I went up the hill to class…”

And I went up the hill to class And I had a body

And I had my body And I had a whole

hike And I was out of breath And I panted

as if a man touched me And I was on my knees

going up the stairs And white bunnies

of dust stuck to me And what stuck to me

was the smell of another hole And I took

an apple And I rested it in me And I rested

And it was a round red in the light And bright

And from underneath the man I loved

held me down And pulled himself a slice

And the swift glare and ping of a pocketknife

from Hot with the Bad ThingsFind more by Lucia LoTempio at the library

Copyright © 2020 Lucia LoTempio
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Windows

After Rilke’s “Les Fenêtres”

I.

how much loss

gains suddenly in emphasis

and brilliant sadness

II.

far from that which lives and turns

III.

languages

of our vain comings and goings wilt and gnaw

IV.

beat them, punish

them for having said and always said

V.

tear out, finally, our spells

VI.

one life pours and grows impatient

for another life

VII.

and the lovers, look on them there,

immobile and frail

pinned like the butterflies

for the beauty of their wings

VIII.

too great in the outdoors

IX.

like the lyre, you should be

rendered a constellation

X.

like the scales or the lyre

an almost-name of the ages’ absences

XI.

should I defend myself

am I not intact

XII.

one who loves is never beautiful

XIII.

tender – strained

XIV.

all hazards are abolished

at the middle of love

with a little bit of space around it

where we are the masters

XV.

changeable like the sea

XVI.

ice, sudden, where our face is mirrored

traversed

XVII.

taste of freedom compromised

by the presence of fate

XVIII.

for whom would I wait

XIX.

with this heart all full which loss completes

XX.

will I be found when the night abounds

given over to you, inexhaustible

XXI.

climb! turn far and away

XXII.

doubt

that you can give the excess which arrests me

XXIII.

the sky: immense example

of depth and height

XXIV.

make of the air a round arena

XXV.

effort circumscribes

our life enormous

XXVI.

stretched toward the night

what

escaped

XXVII.

set out in type on the page

a little

image

vague

XXVIII.

like the greyhounds

arranging their legs

XXIX.

the sense of our rites

waits

XXX.

intent

XXXI.

who rushes, who tilts, who remains

after the abandonment of the night

XXXII.

starry avaricious

XXXIII.

all the grand unbroken numbers

that the night will multiply

XXXIV.

new celestial youth

the matutinal sky

XXXV.

buckles close

XXXVI.

under the guise of tenderness

XXXVII.

time uses his jacket

XXXVIII.

inconsolable space

XXXIX.

turned me into wind,

placed me in the river

XL.

leaves fled . . .

XLI.

I had drunk

all of my abyss

XLII.

one must not tire

and eat with one’s eyes

XLIII.

vision watered

profusely a garden of images

XLIV.

each bird whose flight crosses

my expanse

XLV.

nothing but looking seems like life to me

XLVI.

nothing but looking seems like life

XLVII.

while the prunes ripen

O my eyes, eaters of roses

you will drink the moon

XLVIII.

I consent

and I consent force

XLIX.

oh force

does not frighten me anymore, because it cradles me

L.

in the morning, small wild,

become almost a mouth

all worn and bloodless

LI.

Be, stars, the rhymes

found at the ends of end

LII.

say enough

from ArrowFind more by Sumita Chakraborty at the library

Copyright © 2020 Sumita Chakraborty
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

{All I Wanted Was Everything}

You say you know the reason why Archimedes died

tracing circles in the sand & how

you’ll go out this way,

a man too in love

with unifying

theorem

& consequence.

You say you’d stake your life

in trying to understand

why gravity, like me, crushes

& slips

through your hands,

when I’m one hundred percent

certain that we are two

points never to meet,

if you keep

trying to connect the small & large of you

& me. I could tell you why Archimedes denied

the invading hand

of a Roman solider reaching out to him,

that one last chance

to surrender

& walk behind

a new empire, as free

prisoner. I could say why a frail

thing, like gravity, must be capable

of such cruelty.

I’m putting it out there,

for you,

the human body,

as a transitory stage

for what you & I will never see.

Just billions & billions of caterpillars

or maggots

or grubs,

thinking we are life’s final & finite

destiny—thinking it’s enough that we give

live birth & bury

our dead. & I could say

one of our greatest was only digging

his own grave

because life taught him

nothing in the end. But my dear

friend, the science of survival is not a science

of discovery. & when we die, we go in

mystery.

from If This Is the Age We End DiscoveryFind more by Rosebud Ben-Oni at the library

Copyright © 2021 Rosebud Ben-Oni
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Equinox

Dear child of the near future,

here is what I know—hawks

soar on the updraft and sparrows always

return to the seed source until they spot

the circling hawk. Then they disappear

for days and return, a full flock,

ready. I think we all have the power

to do what we must to survive.

One day, I hope to set a table, invite you

to draw up a chair. Greens steaming garlic.

Slices of bread, still warm. Honey flecked with wax,

and a pitcher of clear water. Sustenance for acts

of survival, for incantations

stirring across our tongues. Can we climb

out of this greedy mouth,

disappear, and then return in force?

My stars are tucked in my pocket,

ready for battle. If we flood

the streets with salt water, we can

flood the sky with wings.

from Last DaysFind more by Tamiko Beyer at the library

Copyright © 2021 Tamiko Beyer
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

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